Yes, this is a bit late in the game, and no the movie had nothing to do with this. But I will talk about the trailers after the book. Spoilers below the fold.
Ready Player One is…well, it is a lot of things. It’s good. Let’s lead with that. It’s good.
The basic story – a treasure hunt – is mostly well thought out, with a plausible plot, motivations, and so forth. The characters don’t blend into each other, and are well-written for what they are (more on this later). Ernest Cline misses some opportunities to take the book to a higher level (several, really), and has a bad habit of discarding side characters like a starting level piece of gear. Some aspects of the way the world is constructed could have been better (stacked Winnebagos…shipping containers makes much more sense…and are designed to be stacked), but it is at least consistent. Again, I liked the book. But while it was good, there is real room to improve.
So good, but what it most assuredly is not is great. Not close. Despite the cover blurbs proclaiming it ‘Willy Wonka Meets The Matrix’ or ‘A Grown-Up’s Harry Potter’, it is neither of those either. See, the problem with the whole thing is that it is missing what Willy Wonka, Harry Potter, and even The Matrix presented in job lots.
There is absolutely no hope at all in this book. Nothing to suggest that the world will be better if ther heroes win. It is pretty clear it will be worse if the central-casting level corporate villians win, but if the heroes win? Nah, nothing really improves for anyone but the winner. There are pipe-dream level ‘plans’ for what to do with the money, but those are silly, unrealistic, and never explored beyond using them as a way to show slight differences in how Parzival and Art3mis see the world.
The characters are neither noble nor ignoble, neither confirming nor revolting. They exist just to serve the novel. That is an issue for me. I want to see some development in the characters, not just the same thing on the last page as the first. And that’s what Cline delivered – hundreds of pages of…sameness. It isn’t that it is unenjoyable, it is very enjoyable, it just lacks any character development or progression. People are just…there. Heck, you enter the book mostly knowing that Parzival gets the prize – it just seems like the way it will work out. I never had a question about that. Or his survival – the novel being first-person and all.
So here is where I mention hoping for more. At the end of section one, I had a set of predictions, all of which were wrong. But, these were also based on having read a lot of books, and having seen what works, what doesn’t, and how good books had gone before. Any one of these could have added suspense, depth, or just something unexpected. I kept expecting Aech to be the traitor – since his best friend found the Copper Key not only without him, but without even telling him. Nope. Art3mis to be more than a sideline / token character. Nope. Ogden to be the secret head of IOI. Nope. i-r0c to be redeemed. Nope – he is dropped like an A-Team love interest, never to be heard from (or mentioned) again. Parzival to be locked in the OASIS, and the stack explosion to be faked to get him to cooperate with IOI. Nope. Sigh. Of course, if I expected these, and they didn’t happen, then I did get something unexpected. So that’s a win.
The world also needs some mention. The simple fact is that it sounds horrific. The needless environmental commentary aside, the fact is that for millions, there is no hope, no escape, only the artificial escape of a VR world. And for those hunting Halliday’s Easter Egg, there is even less. The idea that one sociopath has managed to achieve his dream – everyone is obsessed with him and the things he is obsessed with – is terrifying. Then, for Halliday’s avatar to tell Parzival to ‘get outside’ after he spent years of his life worshiping Halliday…that’s just sick. I know that people do things like memorize movies they are particular fans of – like Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But to require people to have memorized multiple movies, games, TV shows, albums, and your biography…that is just over the top. Especially when you realize the span of time here – 1966 (Ultraman) to 1995 (Neon Genesis Evangelion) – it just seems cruel. Especially, again, with the ‘get outside’ message after you win.
Ok, I also had an issue with the progression of the whole thing. It took 5 years for the Copper Key to be found. And then, what, a year, maybe, for the other two and the Egg? It doesn’t seem realistic. I get that there was a lot more motivation there (especially since IOI killed a bunch of innocent bystanders to try and off Parzival). It just seems like a compaction of the timeline.
There are just issues with the plot, the world, the bad guys, and the characters. They are not enough to make this a bad book – not by any means. They are, however, enough to make the whole thing less than it could be. My suggestion – if you want a geeky, sharp, well-done novel – but with all the stuff this is missing – check out Neal Stephenson’s ‘Snow Crash‘. It is, in my opinion, by far the better book.
- There is no revolution to welcome Parzival to…at best he IS the revolution.
- Art3mis doesn’t look like that – Cline is damn clear on that point.
- They only meet in person at the very end…not sure what is happening to have them meet early
- Where’s Shoto1Maybe by the Iron Giant?? Aech2I think Aech is in one frame in the trailer – where Parzival has his fist up, yammering about saving the OASIS – Aech could be behind him…but, again, that isn’t how that non-scene is written.?
- What car race? What DeLorian? Akira bike? Freddy? Iron Giant? Don’t recall those being in the book3The car race could be just a quick thing to show people’s interactions with OASIS, and not a plot point…it’s not a big deal, just not in the book..
- BEAUTIFUL musical choices – World In My Eyes, Pure Imagination, Jump, Tom Sawyer…all exactly perfect.
- The hideout is perfect..
- The CGI is spot-on perfect. Enough to make a brave man weep.
- Halliday is also perfect – exactly as written.
- I like the quarter – but again, not like it is written in the book (seriously, it is way cooler in the book than it looks like it will be in the movie).